There is no doubt that President Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba was not only historic, but a very positive step towards regularizing the diplomatic relations between the two countries. As part of the celebrations for the gatherings, the Tampa Rays played a friendly baseball game against the Cuban National Team, which ended with a 4-1 victory for the American team.
Obama and Raul Castro watched the game together, but despite the positive highlights one could extract from the friendly meeting between the two leaders, there was an elephant in the room: Cuba’s issues with democracy. During ESPN coverage of the baseball game, we got to see a small glimpse of what that’s like, when a protester interrupted Bob Ley’s live transmission to throw pamphlets into the air, and was quickly arrested by plainclothes police officers.
When the initial scare had passed, ESPN went back to Bobby Ley, who explained that the man was a protester advocating for serious political reform on the island, and elaborated on the prompt arrest and pamphlet clean-up by the police. You have to give ESPN credit for not brushing the protester off or undermining his actions. What the consequences will be for this activism remain to be seen, but hopefully the fact that the TV network dedicated a few minutes to the whole thing will bring scrutiny to the legal process.
As many have also noted, the United States chiding Cubans on human rights comes with a veneer of hypocrisy, considering that Obama has yet to meet his promise to close the Guantanamo Bay naval base, where the U.S. houses political prisoners.
Like the meeting between Obama and Castro, the baseball game was also momentous occurrence, but many questions remain about what exactly this will mean to Cuba – and the United States.